Seneca Falls

One of my Trawler Forum buddies suggested Seneca Falls last year, but I didn’t take the detour off the main canal to visit then, opting to go down to Syracuse instead.  So this trip I figured I’d take the detour. Haven’t decided whether to venture into the two finger lakes that are connected – Cayuga and Seneca – but have a couple of days free in this general area.

Had to go from descending as I went east on the Erie to ascending as I branched south to here.  Came through a double lock on the east side of the town.  It’s a dramatic approach.  At the top of the locks is a little lake with what I saw claimed as the most photographed church in the state.  Can see why.  Then around the corner to the town docks.

I’m docked right beside the boater welcome centre which has showers, laundry and a little lounge.  Walk through it and you’re on the main drag with restaurants and shops.

I was underway for about 9 hours today. Left Lock 30 shortly after it opened at 0700.  Weather was not great – intermittent light rain and cool – and when I got here I turned on the heat and spend some time drying out and warming up.  All cozy now.  I have an inside steering station but much prefer operating from the flybridge in close quarters where I have better visibility.  And there were occasionally large debris that had to be dodged.  So I was outside all day.  Almost as bad as being in a sailboat ūüôā

This part of the Erie is more isolated.  There are a few small communities along the way, but set back from the canal.  I suspect that it’s because the current canal doesn’t follow the exact path of the otiginal.  I did stop briefly in Newark for some breakfast.  Went looking for a cafe and ended up at Dunkin Donuts ūüôā

The rest of the trip was mostly passing by evidence of earlier industrial activity and the last 15-20 miles was skirting the edge of a nature sanctuary.  If I were a birdwatcher I could probably say more.  Certainly saw lots of herons and a couple of birds of prey.  A lot of today was through muddy water with lots of debris and occasional current due to big rainfalls in the area over the last few days.

No big travel plans for tomorrow, will likely stay here, clean up the boat, putter with the motor and explore the local sites of interest.


I’m stopped for the day at Lock 30.  Tied up to a crumbling old wall next to a park, but nothing else close by.  I thought all locks operate until 10 pm but after finding this one all closed up I checked the web site, and the more remote locks like this one close at 5.  Guess I’ll call it a day!  I could back track to Fairport but it’s a couple of hours back.

I left Brockport about 1030 and noodled east.  Before leaving I asked to borrow a bike to go get oil a mile or two away but the on-duty volunteer insisted I take her car.  Nice folks.

Passed the intersection of the canal and the Genessee River, which runs through Rochester and empties into Lake Ontario.  Navigation to the lake is impossible because there are a couple of dams right in downtown Rochester.  When I came through last year I followed the river right up to downtown Rochester, about an hour’s trip one way.  Didn’t see any evidence of pleasure boats apart from a rowing club.  There are a couple of big clubs/marinas on the lake side of the city – I’ve sailed out of the river to race on Lake Ontario – but I guess the locals don’t have any interest in the canal side.  It was weird to be a few miles as the crow flies from the port but a couple of hundred miles by boat.  The canal along that stretch is very industrial, passing under expressways and pretty much all old concrete.  Nowhere to stop.

Stopped at Pittsford for a late lunch.  Pittsford is very nice, I spent lots of time there last year and left the boat there for a week.  Today I docked right in front of a very nice Greek restaurant and had a good feed.

Didn’t stop in Fairport.  That’s another town that’s really done up the waterfront.  Leaving Fairport I met four rental canal boats.  Guess Monday is check out day, as the rental outfit is between here and Fairport.

The local geography really varies.  There is a very long pool between Rochester and Lockport.  In some cases the canal has been dug through shale rock and is slightly below the surrounding area.  But in other areas it’s above the surrounding area.  Near Fairport the canal is 70 feet above the valley it travels across.  Essentially the builders created a giant berm across the valley and the canal is cut into the top of the berm.  I couldn’t get any good pictures, but a couple of times caught glimpses of rooftops through the trees.  Now I’m in an area where the canal is level with the surrounding area, and passed through some wetlands.  More of that ahead.

I still haven’t finalized plans for leaving the boat and returning to London this weekend, but have some options.  Rather than trying to make it to Kingston I am inclined to stay in NY.  Now that I’m here I don’t want to leave in a hurry.  I haven’t checked distances, but think I can get down to the finger lakes area tomorrow.  Maybe Seneca Falls.  Getting there is via an offshoot south from the main canal.

Just started raining hard, so I’m not unhappy stopped anyway.


Plan was to stop for a late lunch, but I like it so much I’m sticking around.  I missed stopping here when I came through last year.

    There’s so much history here.  The Erie Canal played a pivotal role in the development of the Midwest, and indeed in the way the country developed in the 19th century.  See

    I think there was a long period in the 20th century when the canal stopped being relevant and people sort of turned their backs on it.  But that’s turned around.  Original buildings are now being preserved and rejuvenated, and almost every community has added services for visiting boaters.  There is also a rail trail running the entire length which is becoming more popular.

    Here they built a boater welcome centre staffed by volunteers, and it’s very well done.  Dedicated showers and laundry for boaters, dockside power and water.  Paid a nominal $12 for the night.  In many communities it’s all free, but services vary.

    They are not mobbed.  Three boats tied up today, and they could take 15-20.  Apart from a few kayaks and small fishing boats I saw four boats underway between Lockport and here today.  

    Stopped at another little community before here.  Each one has its own interesting story.  Passed a sign in another village saying ‘Population: just about right’ but couldn’t get my camera out quick enough.

    Now I’m showered, well fed, and have hot water on the boat for the first time in a while… Am going to wash dishes and clean up aboard. 

    I should also mention that one of my other reasons for stopping and staying is that there are stores close by where I can buy motor oil as well as groceries etc. Not out of the woods on my motor – it’s running fine but using a lot of oil.  I thought it might self-heal, but so far no joy.  Not going to lose any more sleep over this for now.  I’m happy to keep dumping oil in for the next few days, or maybe the rest of the summer.

    Need to be back in London at the end of the month for a week or so, so my itinerary this week will be partly driven by having a place to leave Mazurka and transport to and from London.  

    Also posted this video to Facebook earlier.  I’m about 6″ under the fixed bridge height with my mast and bimini up.  I was very cautious last year. This year it’s fun going under the bridges.


    I’m on the Erie Canal. ¬†After dithering about whether to go down the Welland and traverse Lake Ontario or take this route I got underway from Port Colborne around noon, and got into Lockport at dusk. ¬†


    • Started to go down the Black Rock Canal but was flummoxed by the first bridge I got to. ¬†It was an opening bridge but appeared to be not staffed. ¬†According to the chart I should have just fit under it, but no way – would have had to take down my bimini frame. ¬†Likely because of the still-high lake level. ¬†So I turned around, went back and went down the Niagara River. ¬†That’s the faster route anyway. ¬†I had things a bit backwards, as usual. ¬†When I came through here last year traveling west I stayed on the river but regretted it when trying to get past the Peace Bridge with an 8 knot current. ¬†Today I sailed through with the current helping me.
    • No problems clearing in through customs. ¬†You do it from these video link phones at select marinas. ¬†The guy first said I needed a cruising permit but I patiently and politely disagreed and he relented. ¬†He didn’t even ask about the DTOC registration that I spent $27 to obtain before I left this morning. ¬†Anyway, I’m completely legal.
    • Found the transient dock at Lockport. ¬†It’s easy to miss when going west. ¬†When I came here last year I wanted to stop but didn’t because I went by the stopping place without recognizing it. ¬†It’s tucked into the top of the original flight. ¬†Great spot. ¬†Power, water, and the lockkeeper offered their shower.

    I’m glad I’m here. Not a fan of the open water, and the forecast wasn’t great for Sunday on Lake Ontario. ¬†I don’t sweat the weather on canals. ¬†No big waves ever.

    Depending on timing I may try to take the side trip down to Seneca Falls and the finger lakes. Missed that last year.

    These guillotine type structures are used to seal off the canal.  Think they drain it in the winter.

    To Welland or not to Welland

    So I sort of had my sons lined up for the big Welland Canal segment tomorrow.  You aren’t allowed to go through alone on the boat, so I needed passengers.

    Now in my own little bubble I have for a long time thought of this as being a local trip of a lifetime.  I am happy to share my incredible fortune of being able to actually make the trip with friends and family.  It’s a win-win situation.

    But when I shopped this around I didn’t get the excited rush of responses I was expecting.  Eventually Miles and his friend Brad were planning to come (with dates) but only because it was Brad’s only day off this summer and he likes hanging on the boat.  We had some good times last summer.  I like him a lot.

    And then I did a bit more research, and this is not a pleasure cruise.  You join a highly coordinated flow of commercial traffic.  It takes something like 12 hours and there is no stopping, lots of waiting, and being tossed around in very large locks.  You do what you are told.

    So after further angst around timing and logistics, change of plan.  Kids are coming, but we’re not going down the canal.  We’re heading back into Lake Erie.  There is a great beach around the corner where we can anchor, chill, swim and play.  And I’m rethinking my desire to take Mazurka through the Welland.  Maybe it’s not the trip of a lifetime.  The Erie Canal is right around the corner and I *love* that trip.

    I’m not such a fool…

    So my I’m a fool post prompted Sarah and Samantha to mount a rescue operation, and they arrived in Port Rowan with food, drink and more fuel Wednesday evening.  And they hung out on the boat with me into the wee hours until I had things properly put together.

    I’m sort of enjoying presenting an unvarnished account of my misadventures. Actually think I might change the blog name.  Plus I kind of like sticking it to the yachties now and again.  Messing around in boats takes many forms.  I’ll try to celebrate some of the sensible things I do as well.  Don’t be alarmed. If it wasn’t fun for me I wouldn’t be doing it.

    And thanks for the shore side support.  I am blessed, and would be lost without it.

    Port Colborne

    There is something magical to me about river towns.  It’s largely these towns that make cruising waterways interesting and immensely appealing for me.

    There’s a big fancy marina right around the corner.  But it’s a resort for boat people – there’s nothing in walking distance, and if you’re a local and you don’t have a boat the only other reason you would be there is as an employee.

    Speaking of such, I pulled into the municipal marina in Port Dover to fill up my fuel and water tanks.  Pulled up to the fuel dock and was greeted by a couple of young folks.  They didn’t know how to make a dock line fast, but were very smiley.  I have two 400 l fuel tanks and both were pretty much bone dry.

    While they were filling the first tank I asked about water.  They didn’t know, and one of them took off in a golf cart to find out.  Arrived back as the first tank was almost full with the message that the manager says no water is available.

    If my boat wasn’t heavily listing because of the lopsided fuel I would have told them to stop pumping.  But wanting a balanced boat and feeling that there must have been a communication gap I had the other tank filled.

    When I went to pay my $800+ bill I pressed again on the water.  Got a brief response from the manager from the adjoining building.  Basically water is expensive, they don’t make much money on fuel sales, go pound sand.  When I asked if there might be water elsewhere in Port Dover I got a shrug.  When I asked if I could tie up for an hour or two I got directed to a dock in the port that is very clearly marked as for being for boats 20 feet and under.  When I raised that she responded that that’s where people go.

    Fuck me.  I’m not easily riled, but I’ll never return, and I’m writing here about it.  That person should be fired, or the directors replaced. Or both.

    So back to the river towns.  Instead of checking in at the marina and paying the $70 nightly fee I’m sitting at an unserviced dock on the Welland Canal.  Dowtown restaurants and shops 30m to my right, Lakers and ocean going ships passing in a steady stream 20m to my left.  And probably some people still quietly fishing from one of the old locks 40m behind me.  I love it.  This is one of the most authentic river towns I’ve ever been in.  Might stay a while… But I do still need to find water.  That alone may be worth a night at the marina.  But I’m not that desperate yet.  

    Have had four ships go by since I started writing this.  Tried taking a picture but it’s awful.  So I’ll be sure to get some daylight shots and post them.  It is one of the coolest thing around, seeing these monsters slide by.  Crew and cargo could have gotten on almost anywhere in the world. And a loud Harley just rumbled through on the shore side.  But I’m a sound sleeper.

    Should also say I’m outside up top, and there are no bugs.  Saw a critter on the dock earlier that my buddy on the other boat here says was a mink.  And there was half a fish on my little finger when I got here but I kicked it in the water ūüôā

    As my dear old dad used to say, that’s the SITREP.

    0700 update: ships upbound and a gaggle of pleasure boats downbound.

    I am a fool

    Seriously.  Almost all of my problems are my own doing.  I realized this morning that I was out of fuel.  Should have seen that coming, but hadn’t been paying attention as I haven’t really gone anywhere.  But of course the generator uses fuel, and I have been on the boat for a month, and I have been out around the bay trying to run at full power on a few occasions.

    Fortunately Mary was visiting, and so we made two trips – on her arrival and departure – to a gas station about 15 minutes up the road that has diesel.  Brought 40 litres each trip.  So far so good, enough to get me to Port Dover about 15 miles away tomorrow after I put the motor together.  I can refuel at the marina there.  

    I ran the generator for a couple of hours to charge up batteries and really hose down the cockpit, also to make sure fuel system was ok.   Nice evening, and I was mostly outside.

    When I went inside at dusk to get to work on the motor I find the bilge *full* of diesel.  Immediately remember that because I have the injection pump off the main motor I need to be concerned with fuel pumping out the open return line when I run the generator.  In fact I had made up a plug a few weeks ago when I had the pump off to prevent that from happening.  But when I pulled the pump (again) on Monday I forgot to put it in.

    Cleared out the bilge with a sponge and a bucket, and got about 30 litres out.  Up to my elbows in fuel.  Put that in my two newly acquired Jerry cans, because I didn’t have any other empty containers.  I already have like 50 litres of used oil aboard, plus some dirty bilge water from an earlier cleanup.

    So half the fuel I added was wasted.  I feel like I’m running a petroleum waste barge with all these tanks of dirty fuel and oil.  And I’m now nervous about getting to Port Dover on my remaining fuel.  And I still haven’t put the pump back on because I was busy mopping up the spill.  All because of my carelessness.  

    Tomorrow will be a better day.

    Great day

    Mary’s visit coincided with my realization that I was out of fuel, so she helped deliver 80 l of diesel.  Good timing!  Life with power continues!  We explored a couple of nearby cuts in the dinghy. This is a pretty neat area.  Gotta start taking pics.  Here’s one of her selfies taken while I was fuelling up.

    Nice having visitors.

    A visitor!

    My friend Mary is going to bring me lunch tomorrow.  How lovely!  Supposed to be a beautiful day.  Not sure exactly where we’re meeting yet or what kind of boating we’ll do. Still dealing with mechanical issues.

    But on that front I am most definitely making progress!  If you’d asked a week ago I would not have offered great odds on me getting to Montreal.  I’d offer much higher odds now.  In fact I’ve made tentative arrangements to meet Gavin Wednesday night in Port Colborne.  I have what I think is a path to resolution.

    Did lots of cleaning this evening and will do more tomorrow morning.  Between the thick paste of dead insects on the outside, the petroleum products smeared around over the last few weeks and the empty water tanks things have slid. Even for me.